The Midsummer Wife, Jacqueline Church Simonds

The Midsummer Wife, Jacqueline Church Simonds

The Midsummer Wife (The Heirs to Camelot Book 1)

The Midsummer Wife is the modern outcome of Arthurian intrigue, a story of secretive organisations and hidden heritage culminating in Britain’s salvation. The aftermath of a nuclear terrorist attack on the heart of London has brought Britain to its knees, with the capital shattered and the countryside overrun with refugees.  Ava Cerdwen is the High Priestess of the Goddessian Church, and the woman tasked with bringing the heirs of Merlin and Arthur out of obscurity to heal their shattered country.

Author Jacqueline Church Simonds has pulled together a number of classic threads to weave her tale, with secretive cults of priestesses bringing forwards ancient knowledge to manipulate events, hidden heirs to power reluctantly acknowledging their heritage, and Druidic rites. Fans of Arthurian legend will find this a satisfying read, with a nod to all the right touchpoints, including a planned seduction that goes wildly astray. There are places where the reader relies on Ava’s mental commentary for a lot of the context, and couple of places where one of the protagonists happens to have just exactly the unlikely item required to save the day, but by and large the pacing and the storyline don’t require the help, and the whole forms a very pleasant read.

The Gorgon Bride, Galen Surlak-Ramsey

The Gorgon Bride, Galen Surlak-Ramsey

The Gorgon Bride

The Gorgon Bride is the story of what would happen if the ancient Greek pantheon showed up on Earth and dropped an Orca on a concert pianist. This book showed strong elements of the traditional Greek legends’ style in the story, with the gods essentially larger-than-life humans pursuing eternal family feuds, but unfortunately my sense of humour is a vanishingly small target, and the comedic elements rather passed me by.

Alexander Weiss is selected by Athena apparently at random to act as her hero and find a suitable match for a gorgon, daughter of Phorcys, in order to appease Phorcys for having turned another of his daughters into a whale that got dropped on Alexander. Athena hopes to prove herself superior to Aphrodite in the process.

While the idea is certainly original, I found this story very hard to get into. The traditional Greek legend style of ‘oh, you got dismembered, old boy? Well, never mind, it’s a new day’ just never does it for me, and despite my best efforts, I kept skidding out of immersion in the storyline in a cloud of curses. This is undoubtedly a tribute to how well the author managed the style, but for me, much as I’d like to be able to, I can’t give a higher rating; I just didn’t enjoy the read.

The Watchers boxed set, Ellison Blackburn

The Watchers boxed set, Ellison Blackburn

The Watchers boxed set: If There Be Giants and Second Son

If you enjoyed Indiana Jones, and the interweaving of fact and myth, past and present, this series is for you. Author Ellison Blackburn takes a solid grounding of English weather and archaeology, and adds a breath of mythology and mystery that raises the plot from merely interesting to a delightful exercise in what-if.

If There be Giants

Mallory Jacks and her best friend, Paisley Bourne, shared a passion for archaeology as children. Years later, Drs. Jacks and Bourne, once again working together, are summoned to a farm where the farmer has uncovered a possible henge site. As they begin to unearth the stones, they make a discovery that has the potential to overturn both the scientific and the religious communities.

If There Be Giants is a story of archaeology and myths, giants and visions, set in Cornwall, the seat of all British legend. Ellison Blackburn has created a story richly woven with archaeological detail and Christian mythology, and peopled it with her strongly-characterised protagonists. This is one of the author’s strongest books to date, a fascinating debut to the new Watchers series.

Second Son

Second Son is the second in the Watchers series, following  Grey’s point of view more closely as he learns the truth of his infamous heritage – and how to reconcile his existence and that of his family with their beliefs.

Author Ellison Blackburn’s trademark ability to weave thought-provoking concepts into stories that are gripping, well-developed reads is back on display in this series, as she explores love, fidelity, and faith through the lens of Grey and Mallory’s lives. The handling of the Christian mythology displays the depth of research that went into the story and provides a strong framework that underlies the choices the protagonists must make in this book.

Beyond the Vale, Kerry Alan Denney

Beyond the Vale, Kerry Alan Denney

Beyond the Vale

Logan isn’t sure if he’s dreaming, dead, or simply finally lost his marbles. There’s a woman he should know, a personal history he should know, and all he has is a blank in his head. There are doors that lead to impossible geography and photos that could never have been taken. However, crazy or not, something is clearly very wrong – and like it or not, Logan has apparently been elected general saviour of the world.

Beyond the Vale is one of those books where you spend the first few chapters just as confused as the protagonist, trying to figure out what’s going on. The author succeeds in conveying that utter disorientation particularly realistically in this book. However, coming out of that disorientation, you will pretty much perforce be very keyed in on the characters in the plot; Logan’s development through the book is a key theme and provides a lot of food for thought, especially since his development is all you find out about him until the latter stages of the book, where some of his missing past comes to light. The storyline is richly layered, and provides more thinking material the deeper you choose to delve into it. Definitely something to pick up for all the fantasy fans out there.

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Second Son, Ellison Blackburn

Second Son, Ellison Blackburn

Second Son

Second Son is the second in the Watchers series, picking up simultaneously to the ending of If There Be Giants. This installment follows Grey’s point of view more closely as he learns the truth of his infamous heritage – and how to reconcile his existence and that of his family with their beliefs. However, Grey is faced with more and harder choices than he might have believed possible, and both he and his soul mate, Mallory Jacks, will be tested.

Author Ellison Blackburn’s trademark ability to weave thought-provoking concepts into stories that are gripping, well-developed reads is back on display in this series, as she explores love, fidelity, and faith through the lens of Grey and Mallory’s lives. The handling of the Christian mythology displays the depth of research that went into the story and provides a strong framework that underlies the choices the protagonists must make in this book. This second novel in the series focusses strongly on the interpersonal relationships of the characters, leaving the first book’s tale of the landmark discovery at Gwellen and its scientific exploitation more as a side note to Grey’s personal journey and the questions it raises. This book will definitely enthrall readers who enjoy exploring the boundaries between science, philosophy, and religious belief.

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